The Prouty: A Tradition of Charity

A group of Dartmouth students that participated in the Prouty’s golf event at the Hanover Country Club

A group of Dartmouth students that participated in the Prouty’s golf event at the Hanover Country Club

On July 10 and 11 of this summer, the thirty-fourth annual Prouty charity event dominated Hanover. Over 5000 participants and 1300 volunteers descended on Hanover to take part in events ranging from 5 kilometer wooded walks to a 200 mile, two day bike ride starting in Manchester and ending in Hanover. Most of the events took place on Saturday, July 11. On that day, normal life in Hanover came to almost a complete stop, as it seemed nearly everyone took time to support the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Roads were closed, and packs of bikers fanned out all over the upper valley completing routes ranging from 20 to 100 miles that day. Dartmouth students participated in most events, renting or borrowing bikes, golf clubs, and whatever else they needed to support the event. Hanover Country Club was flooded with golf carts, all flying small Prouty flags. On the river, boats travelled up and down the river in various distance events. Roads and trails throughout Hanover were flooded with walkers. For most events, the fundraising minimum was $150 dollars, while participants in the 200 mile Prouty Ultimate had to raise a total of $2500.

The routes took participants throughout the area in both Vermont and New Hampshire, with some participants reaching as far north as Woodsville, NH. Walking routes covered the northern half of the town. Richmond Middle School on Lyme Road served as the hub for the day’s activities as well as the starting and finishing point for all biking and walking routes this year. Throughout the Upper Valley, various “Stop and Go” stations with food, volunteer staff, bike or boat technicians, and emergency medical technicians were set up for the day in order to help participants comfortably and safely finish their chosen events.

The Prouty has a long history in the Upper Valley, tracing its route back to four nurses who took a 100 mile bike ride in honor of Audrey Prouty, who lost a long battle with cancer that year. The inaugural event raised $4,000 dollars. This year, the event raised more than three million dollars and attracted 130 corporate sponsors for the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, the charitable organization responsible for hosting the event each year. 2015’s total brings the total amount of money raised up to $23 million over the lifetime of the event. According the Media Fact sheet released for 2015, nearly eighty-seven cents of every dollar raised goes to support cancer research and care. Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) operates 17 regional centers throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, either alone or with partner hospitals. It is one of only 41 treatment centers designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one serving the Northern New England region. Although the fundraising statistics are impressive in their own right, the money raised each year actually has far more impact than many might realize. Dr. Mark Israel, the director of the NCCC said in a NCCC newsletter, “The Prouty makes the fight against cancer a community effort. It’s an effort that makes a real difference in our work every day. Researchers use Prouty funds to develop their ideas and attract large grants. More than $1.2 million dollars in seed grant money supplied by The Prouty over a five-year period has generated $20 million in external support for our cancer research.” Prouty Pilot projects, which receive this funding, have included programs that involve complex microscopes and molecules that make aggressive brain tumors “light up” during surgery, allowing oncologists to ensure more of it is removed. Another successful program involves injecting nanoparticles of iron into tumors and then heating them up using magnets to terminate the cancerous tumor. This groundbreaking, lifesaving research has attracted around $12.5 million in federal grant funding. In addition to research funding, the funds generated from the Prouty support patient services such as libraries, exercise classes, patient art classes and counseling. Another area of funding allocation is improving educational and development opportunities for oncology nurses, who are a crucial part of cancer care. Following the 2014 Prouty event, 42% of the funds raised went to support advanced research, with a further 9% going to clinical trials and research. Dr. Israel stated that, this year, funding would support research predominantly targeted on “tumor immunology, molecular epidemiology, prevention (screening and behavioral change), experimental therapeutics, early phase clinical trials, and personalized medicine.”

From its start as a single 100-mile bike ride, the event has accumulated more events, adding rowing routes of various lengths up and down the Connecticut River in 2011, and golf in 2013. This year featured 16 separate events covering 4 different sports: golfing, walking, biking, and rowing. Bike routes are spread out throughout the Upper Valley, with most routes passing through Lyme, NH. Rowers went up and down the Connecticut, and walkers fanned out throughout the Hanover area. Refreshingly absent from the event was competition in the actual sports events. While a few holes featured small prizes for closest to the pin or long drive, and one par three promised a two-year lease on a new Fiat for a hole in one, the focus of the event was on coming together to support a cause, not individual or team competition. The biking, rowing, and walking events were not timed, again to focus effort on the cause of the day rather than individual competition. Students in their effort to participate tackled some of the events with equipment not usually seen in more competition-focused events. Dartbike, a student owned company that rents bikes on campus helped supply students participating in the biking events with what they needed, and although the sometimes single-speed bikes seemed simple compared to the complex road bikes that some participants used, the bikes allowed people to get out on the road and participate.

In addition to being a fixture of the Upper Valley summer, the Prouty has become a staple event for undergraduates on campus during the summer. Students participated in almost all of the events, and put enormous amounts of thought and energy into fundraising a volunteering to help the event run smoothly. Speaking to The Daily Dartmouth, Norris Cotton Cancer Center executive director Jean Brown noted that Greek houses on campus had a prominent role in the success of the event. This year, the Theta Delta Chi (TDX) fraternity raised $26,760 dollars for the event, and the Kappa Delta Epsilon (KDE) sorority raised over $12,000, the next highest contribution. Other houses held Popsicle sales, grilled cheese sales, and other events to raise money and awareness for the upcoming event. The Alpha Phi Sorority had close to 100% participation in the event, with more than fifty sisters taking part in one of the activities that day. Lauren Gruffi, Alpha Phi’s Philanthropy Chair, in an interview said she was “very proud of my sorority as well as the other Greek Houses. I was very impressed by the Dartmouth community coming together and supporting such a worthy cause.” Dartmouth students were also heavily involved in volunteering for the event. In an interview with The Daily Dartmouth, Kevin Zhang ’17 said that Dartmouth students contributed more than 500 hours of service in 173 positions over the course of the event. This year, Zhang served as the volunteer coordinator for students, helping place volunteers where they would be most helpful. Outside of Dartmouth, participants from thirty-eight states showed their support at the event, and throughout the day local businesses such as the Dirt Cowboy Café were packed full of people.

This year’s Prouty was especially touching for many Dartmouth students, as only a few days after the event Summer Hammond, a member of the class of 2017, passed away after her own battle with cancer. Hammond had fought cancer since a diagnosis on her sixteenth birthday. She had touched the lives of many people, especially in the class of 2017, during her time on Dartmouth’s campus. She was particularly known for her positive outlook. According to The Daily Dartmouth, the last time Hammond left her hospital room at DHMC was to participate in the Prouty golf tournament. A golfer in high school, Hammond played nine holes of the event with support from friends, family, and her nurses from DHMC. Hammond passed away nine days later on July 20. A memorial is planned for her on campus in the fall.

In addition to the Prouty, the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center hosts several other charity events throughout the Northern New England Region. Prouty Challenge events, founded in the spirit of the Prouty, will take place throughout the year. Reach for the Peaks will organize a Mt. Moosilauke climb on September 27, 2015, and a climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania from Decemeber 26, 2015 to January 6, 2016. “Seeds of Hope,” a fashion show fundraiser, will be held in May 2016 at Southern New Hampshire State University. The Pink and Blue Halloween ball, supporting breast and prostate cancer research, will be held this October in Manchester. Finally, on Sunday August 16, a group of motorcycle riders completed a 120-mile motorcycle ride throughout the Upper Valley, also supporting the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. The 2016 Prouty is scheduled for July 9, and those wishing to get involved with it or the other events benefitting NCCC can find all the relevant information at the Prouty website. Hopefully the class of 2018 and future Dartmouth classes on during their Sophomore Summers continue the honorable tradition of supporting this worthy cause in support of vital cancer research.